ANOTHER BENEFIT OF CARRYING AUTO INSURANCE

       Missouri House Bill 339 This past week, the Missouri Legislature voted to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of House Bill 339. That bill, euphemistically categorized as “no pay, no play” legislation, effectively limits the damages an injured driver could claim in an accident if that driver himself was uninsured, even when the accident was the fault of the other driver. Specifically, the injured uninsured driver could seek only his “economic” damages (medical expenses, property damages, wage losses) in a claim or suit against the other insured driver who caused the accident, but would be barred from seeking “non-economic damages (pain and suffering, etc.). This limitation would not apply to passengers in the uninsured driver’s car, to drivers whose insurance coverage was simply non-renewed within the past six months, nor in cases where the driver causing the accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or is convicted of manslaughter or assault as a result of the accident.

          HB 339 will now go into effect on October 11, 2013. Opponents argue that it is designed to benefit insurance companies, which normally pay the damages assessed in litigation against the drivers they insure. For example, if ABC Insurance Company insures a driver who injures another uninsured driver, it will only be exposed to pay the uninsured driver’s medical bills and automobile damages, but not any claim for disfigurement, scarring, emotional injuries, etc.. This bill effectively limits their financial exposure substantially. Moreover, the bill essentially encourages Missouri drivers to procure liability insurance, so that they don’t find themselves limited in the claims they may make. That also, it is argued, benefits insurance companies who will now sell more insurance. Conversely, bill proponents argue that it should encourage more Missourians to comply with existing law requiring all drivers to have insurance, and will put otherwise uninsured drivers in the position of being able to provide financial responsibility to injured persons when they are the at-fault driver.

          In vetoing the legislation back in July, Governor Nixon called the legislation’s language “ambiguous” and stated that it insufficiently defined who actually met the definition of “uninsured”. This law will ultimately face legal challenges over its language and constitutional appropriateness. It is unclear how the appellate courts will interpret this law, but an on-going fight is a certainty. If nothing else, however, the passage of this law over Governor Nixon’s veto should illustrate the benefit of carrying automobile insurance in general and actually may encourage some otherwise uninsured drivers to “get covered”.

#Missourihousebill339;  #uninsureddrivers;  #Missourilegislature;  #Missouriveto;  #GovernorJayNixon

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The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

Business-Friendly Missouri Allows the Creation of “Series Limited Liabilty Companies”

    

Business-Friendly Missouri Allows the Creation of “Series Limited Liability Companies”On July 1, 2013, Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon signed into law legislation allowing the creation of “series limited liability companies”. (SLLC).  Missouri is now one of very few states that allow business owners to create SLLCs.  In order to understand how an SLLC company generally operates, you should first understand the benefits of a standard limited liability company (LLC). 

     Generally, an LLC member’s personal assets are protected if the LLC is sued.  In other words, only those assets held by the LLC can be attached if a judgment is awarded against the LLC.  For example, if the assets owned by the LLC consist of rental property, then only those assets can be attached; not those of the individual LLC member. But in this example, the LLC’s assets can be attached, regardless of whether those assets consist of one parcel or twenty separate parcels of rental property.  However, if each separate parcel of rental property is owned by a separate LLC, then only the rental property of the individual LLC that has been sued can be attached.  Thus, not only are the LLC member’s personal assets protected, but so are the company assets in each of the other nineteen separate LLCs.  This technique of providing asset protection for each LLC, however, requires filing individual articles of organization for each one, accompanied by individual filing fees, and incurring the expenses attributable to the multiple and repetitive tasks associated with managing each LLC. 

     The SLLC, on the other hand, obviates the necessity of multiple filing fees and, to some extent, repetitive management tasks.  An SLLC consists of a parent LLC with two or more sub-LLCs, often call cells, under one umbrella.  The SLLC will have one name with each cell have the same name but distinguishing itself from the other cells.  For example, the cells under a parent-SLLC named Acme, LLC will be named Acme, LLC (Cell A), Acme, LLC (Cell B), and so forth.  Whereas a separate operating agreement is needed for each separate LLC, only one global operating agreement is needed for an SLLC provided, pursuant to Missouri’s new law, that each cell is identified therein.  Each cell has the power to conduct business as if it were a separate LLC, which includes conducting business with another cell under the same SLLC.

     Missouri’s new SLLC law emphasizes that while one or more cells may have separate business purposes or investment objectives from the other cells, those must be specified in the operating agreement.  The new law also sets out various other requirements that must be met and included in the operating agreement in order for a company to be part of an SLLC.  While the formation of a single LLC does not mandate the need for an operating agreement, the new law thus seemingly requires an operating agreement when forming an SLLC.  This means that the operating agreement for an SLLC must contain technical provisions not otherwise contained in a operating agreement designed for a single LLC.  Because of this, and the SLLC’s infancy in Missouri, legal advice should be sought when considering the formation of an SLLC. However, this new legislation provides reason for hope that Missouri is becoming more “business-friendly”.        

#LLC         #serieslimitedliabilitycompanies          #MissouriHB510

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.   
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

“We’re Sending You a Free Gift!”

More and more Americans use only their cell phones as their sole telephone number, both to avoid the expense of an unnecessary land line and to try to avoid the relentless robocalls and telemarketers who interrupt many an evening meal.   Since 2009 most robocalls have been prohibited by Federal law (15 U.S.C. 6101-6108We Are Going To Send You a Gift!), regardless of whether the phone number is listed on the ‘Do Not Call Registry’, unless the consumer has previously stated, in writing, that he or she wants to receive automated calls from the company in question. However, some robocalls remain legal, such as those from political organizations or charitable groups, which are considered “informational” and are not trying to sell you something (Federal law regulating telemarketing and robocalls also has a loop-hole for some prerecorded healthcare messages made by or on behalf of a covered entity, like the Social Security Administration, or their business associates).

Unfortunately, our cell phones are the next target of the telephone scammers, and at this point, the ‘Do Not Call Registry’ is not strong enough. Likewise, internet voice technology makes it easier for the crooks to beat the system to get around the ‘Do Not Call Registry’ and hide their identity. The harsh reality is that as technology advances, so do the scammers. 

For some consumers, the robocalls are more than a mere interruption or annoyance.  There has been a recent increase in robocalls specifically aimed at senior citizens.  Some calls even promise a free personal medical alert device that can be sent to them in the mail.  Typically, the robocall claims that the free device is gift from a loved one, physician, or provided under the Affordable Care Act. Once the consumer presses “1” to receive more information, they are connected to a sales representative to lure their personal information and sometimes con the senior into paying for the device and services.  Then the victim’s credit card is charged thousands for the service for the “free” medical alert device. Others have reported never receiving a phone call, but instead receive a “free” device in the mail.  Afterwards the victim receives threatening phone calls and invoices to pay for the device.

Both local and federal law enforcement agencies are scrambling to keep up with the technology and the scammers.  One by one, the illegal robocallers are shut down, but new ones pop up every day.  In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission held a summit to address the issue of rising illegal robocalls and to develop a solution to stop the rapid increase.  For now the best advice is to simply hang up.  No matter what the robocaller tells you, do not give your name, personal information, or press any buttons. Many robocalls purportedly offer a “opt out” feature, suggesting that calls will cease if you “press 2 to be removed from our list”, but the reality is that by doing so you simply confirm that the robocaller has reached a working number that will listen to messages.  Often consumers find that the number of robocalls actually increase after pressing a button to “opt out” of future calls.

Finally, if you do receive unordered merchandise or a “free gift” addressed to your home, you are under no legal obligation to return it or pay for it. If you are harassed for payment or return of the merchandise, call the police. 

To file a complaint, visit www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC- HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Nothing posted on Evidentiary  Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.   
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

 

 

Tightened Illinois Traffic Rules and Speeding Penalties

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-traffic-cop-talking-driver-sports-car-image29660066If you ever received a speeding ticket in Illinois, you may have been sentenced to “court supervision”, which is a form of probation.  In Illinois, the court has the discretion, upon a plea or finding of guilty, to defer further proceedings and the imposition of a sentence, and enter an order for supervision. 730 ILCS 5/5-6-1(c).  In particular, in cases involving a charge of speeding, courts were permitted to grant court supervision as a probationary penalty to drivers who were caught driving up to 40 mph over the limit. However, Senate Bill 2888, known as “Julie’s Law”s, seeks to limit the court’s discretion by prohibiting any judge from ordering supervision to drivers charged with speeding more than 25 mph over the posted speed limit in an urban district, or more than 30 mph on the highway

Julie’s Law is an effort to keep repeat speeding offenders from getting a “slap on the wrist.” The law was named in honor of the late 17-year-old Julie Gorczynski, who was killed when a car speeding at 76 mph in a 40 mph zone struck the passenger side of her friend’s Jeep.  The speeding driver had received multiple prior speeding tickets, but many had resulted in “supervision”, instead of convictions. Supporters of Julie’s Law (especially her family) felt that the courts have been too lenient on drivers with previous speeding violations and that Julie’s death could have been prevented by stricter laws.

Several other new traffic laws in Illinois were signed by Governor Pat Quinn, including several related to cell phone usage on the roadways.  One bill (SB2488) prohibits the use of cell phones at any time while driving on any section of highway that is undergoing a construction or maintenance project. Additionally, HB5105 expanded the ban on hand-held cell phone usage and texting to commercial drivers, except when necessary for the driver to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.

HB5099 prohibits any driver from using a cell phone within 500 feet of an emergency scene except for specific exempt purposes. An “emergency scene” is now defined as a location where an authorized emergency vehicle is present and has activated its oscillating, rotating, or flashing lights.  In addition to restricting the use of a hand-held cell phone for verbal communication, drivers are also restricted from sending “electronic messages” (e-mail messages, text messages, instant messages, and digital photographs, videos, or command access to the Internet).

While more than 70 local governments in Illinois ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, Illinois state law does not currently prohibit cell phones while driving. But that could soon change. Legislators recently sent HB1247 to Governor Quinn, which would enact a statewide ban on drivers from using hand-held cell phones.  If Quinn signs the bill, Illinois will join the ranks of the eleven other states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia — that broadly ban the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving.

The bottom line in Illinois – put down that phone and watch your speed!

#Julieslaw  #Speedingticket   #Illinoislaw

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The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

Supreme Court Rules that DOMA Does Not Actually Defend Marriage

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-same-sex-marriage-image29055416

The United States Supreme Court’s decision this week in U.S. v. Windsor (related to the Defense of Marriage Act, referred to as “DOMA”) essentially prevents the Federal Government from treating same-sex married couples differently than “traditional” married couples, at least in states where same-sex marriages are recognized and protected by that State’s law. As such, the “benefits” applicable to married couples must be afforded to legally married same-sex couples in those states.

What this decision does not do is force States which do not recognize same-sex marriage to do so. The reason why the latter was not addressed by the Court is because that section of DOMA was not challenged in the underlying case by Edith Windsor, the widow of her same-sex deceased spouse, whose own claim related to the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. Because the Court usually only addresses the narrow questions raised in a given case, it did not, in the Windsor case, address that section of DOMA that deals with State (as opposed to Federal) recognition of same-sex marriages. DOMA was not, therefore, completely invalidated, but it was substantially eviscerated.

What federal benefits are protected? According to the Supreme Court’s written opinion, there are more than 1,000 benefits that inure to married couples (in fact, according to the Government Accounting Office (“GAO”), there are specifically 1,138 federal rights associated with marriage), which now inure to all married couples regardless of whether they have a “traditional” marriage of two members of the opposite sex or a same-sex marriage. Prior to this ruling, DOMA effectively served to deny persons in same-sex marriages, even where recognized by their state’s own laws, these 1000+ benefits, while simultaneously making them available or applicable to opposite-sex married partners.

The impact of the ruling is that Mrs. Windsor, the Petitioner in the case itself, will be entitled to a refund of the $360,000 of estate taxes that she paid upon her spouse’s death, as she is now entitled to claim the “estate tax exemption” applicable to spouses under federal law.
Additionally, a list of the benefits now available to same-sex couples, in small part, includes:

• Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits
• Veterans’ benefits
• Military service benefits
• Employment benefits
• Immigration benefits, including the right to have an alien spouse remain in the U.S. after marriage.
• Intellectual property benefits
• Medicare benefits
• A host of additional tax benefits.

The additional point to take away from this ruling by the Supreme Court, which is applicable to all Americans, regardless of their opinion on this issue, is that the Federal Government’s use of the state-defined class for the purpose of imposing restrictions and disabilities was inconsistent with Constitutional protections. In essence, the Court effectively said that the Federal government’s application of its law (DOMA) injured a class of persons which the State sought to protect.

We all have differing opinions on this, and many other issues. Regardless of one’s personal opinion, it is interesting to observe our judicial process balance the often competing interests of Federal government, State government, and individuals. In essence, the Supreme Court in Windsor effectively establishes only one type of marriage, at least with regard to applying Federal laws, by deciding that if a marriage is sanctioned by the sovereignty of the State that created it, the Federal Government must concede its validity.

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.  

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

How NOT to Utilize Social Media In Business

              Over the past few years, there has been a growth in the number of websites that allow customers, clients and patients to critique companies, services, and professionals, as well as an increased ability for people to use social media to express opinions, even anonymously. Since those with “gripes” tend to be more likely to get up on the internet soapbox, and reviews, therefore, may lean more negatively than supportive, at least one individual has gone on the offensive. A New York dentist, Stacey Makhnevich, required all of her patients, including Robert Lee, to sign an agreement preventing them from making public comment about her services. Interestingly, in “return” for this restraint of speech, Dr. Makhnevich promised not to do something that the law actually already requires of her, that being, not to exploit certain loopholes in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) with regard to patient privacy. How NOT to Utilize Social Media In Business

               Mr. Lee had a toothache and sought treatment from Dr. Makhnevich. Before treatment, however, she required that he sign this privacy agreement.  He did.  He was then personally billed almost $5,000 for dental services when the doctor’s office neglected to bill the insurance company for reimbursement. This put Mr. Lee on the hook for the entire bill, much to his surprise.  When Lee sought copies of his dental records, Dr. Makhnevich referred him to a third-party company which demanded $200 for a copy of his records. Not surprisingly, Mr. Lee was unhappy about this incident, and recounted his experiences on several websites where such reviews are accepted from the public.  He criticized Makhnevich for overcharging him, refusing to submit billing to his insurer, and told about the issue with the medical records, all of which were apparently true statements of fact.  In response, Dr. Makhnevich sent Lee a demand letter threatening to sue and seeking $100,000 in damages.  She then began issuing invoices to Lee charging $100 per day for “copyright infringement” which stated that a 1.5% late charge and a service charge of $20 would be imposed if not paid within 7 days. 

               Lee filed a pre-emptive suit in federal court.  Dr. Makhnevich responded with a motion to dismiss, taking the position that there was no controversy.  The court rejected this argument and denied the dentist’s motion to dismiss, citing the dentist’s aggressive attempts to enforce the agreement, using choice words and phrases such as “ridiculous, and “specious,” and one not often seen in judicial opinions…“wishful thinking.”  Mr. Lee’s case therefore remains pending before the court. 

               Although it may be tempting to try to use the force of law to fend off public criticisms of a business, profession, or service, it is certainly not clear that such a heavy-handed approach would be effective in that regard.  In fact, such efforts will invariably become public themselves, and are likely to be viewed as bad faith attempts to suppress one’s “freedom of speech” and hide honest opinions about poor service or conduct.  Dollar-for-dollar, it would seem that a business or professional would likely get a better return from an investment into efforts designed to improve customer service, rather than suppression of customer speech. After all, clients or customers who are unhappy are going to ultimately have their say, and clearly have a right to their opinions and to publicize them, whether via the internet, the water cooler, a social gathering or up on a real soapbox in the public square. Better that they should have a very simple and limited issue of general dissatisfaction than to be able to say that the business is trying to shut them up.

We will follow Mr. Lee’s case as it develops to see if the Judge makes good on his prophetic statement that this dentist’s arguments may be wishful thinking.  Lee v. Makhnevich, No. 11 Civ. 8665 (PAC), (S.D. New York, March 27, 2013).

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.  

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

SHACKING UP – 21st Century Style

Shacking Up - 21st Century StyleHousing cooperatives (co-ops), a hybrid of condominium units and apartment complexes, have been around for decades.  Typically, a co-op has many residential units and is owned by a corporation.  Rather than each resident owning his or her individual housing unit or paying rent, a resident buys into a co-op by purchasing shares and becoming a shareholder in the corporation.  While co-op residents are responsible for paying their own utilities, they are also responsible for sharing in the cost of operating and maintaining the building.  Large co-ops have by-laws and are typically run by a board of directors, which is comprised of a subset of residents.  Smaller co-ops may be run by all residents, with everyone taking on shared tasks such as maintenance and landscaping.

The most attractive option of living in a co-op is that it often costs less than living in a condominium or an apartment, and even a house.  This has been the case for years in large cities, such as New York City, where the cost of living is high.  However, with the impact of the current economy and increase in the cost of living, many individuals across the United States are now electing to establish a form of co-ops known as “shared households.”  Shared households consist of a small number of individuals who purchase a house together and share in the costs and tasks of maintaining it.  There are certain rules that must usually be established and followed in shared households, such as visitors and visiting hours, pets, and chores.  This concept is catching on as shared households now make up 18 percent of all households in the United States—a 17 percent increase since 2007.

For all of its benefits, however, it should be remembered that a shared household is akin to a business partnership.  This means that there should be an established system of rules, formally drafted, such as by-laws.  The by-laws should contain not only the typical rules pertaining to visiting hours, maintenance, costs, and daily chores, but, and most importantly, the termination of residency.  Thus, the by-laws should contain provisions addressing how a resident might be evicted, if one wants to leave, or what happens if a resident dies.  This is particularly important if all residents are co-owners of the house.  Professionally drafted by-laws and deeds can help prevent the emotional and costly expense of litigation arising under such scenarios, particularly costly probate resulting from the death of a resident.  With respect to the latter scenario, effective estate plans should also be considered in order to further ensure that a resident’s share does not pass to an outside party upon his or her death.  Although becoming less of an issue, some municipalities still have laws prohibiting cohabitation between unmarried and unrelated individuals, and/or the number of individuals residing in one household.  Thus, similar to starting a business, consultation with an attorney can be invaluable when it comes to establishing a shared household.   

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.  

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

Nigerian princes don’t care about internet “Terms of Use”

By now, who hasn’t received an e-mail from someone claiming to be a member of the Nigerian royal family, seeking help transferring millions of dollars to a safe facility in the United States, to keep it from falling into the wrong hands? While it seems improbable that anyone getting such a message would truly believe that out of the hundreds of millions of people in the world, this “prince” or other relative of a supposedly deceased world leader would be contacting average “Joe” in the Midwest for help, apparently some people do fall for it.http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-young-african-american-man-sheikh-laptop-image16921012

 Identifying a scam may be hard. The rule of thumb should always be “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is”.

 Besides scams, however, the average individual today with an e-mail account is bound to receive junk e-mails by the dozens. Needless to say, we recommend not only that they be ignored, but that they be deleted. It is not difficult for the unscrupulous to attach or imbed a virus or other hacking program in the types of attachments that come with junk e-mails. Likewise, when you receive an e-mail from a “friend” with a video of a cute little kitty or some purportedly exciting attachment, exercise extreme caution about opening the file. Unless you are absolutely certain the message is from someone you know, don’t open the message or any attachment. Look for clues in the message that it is really just spam:

  • Did your “friends” use the nickname for you that they usually use, or address you more formally?
  • Is there simply a hyperlink but no other message?
  • Does their actual listed e-mail address in the “from” line match the one you know to be accurate?
  • Are there misspellings or grammatical mistakes that you wouldn’t expect them to make?
  • Are there other recipients listed of whom you’ve never heard before?

If you open a spam or junk message by accident and unleash a virus, cleaning and fixing your computer can be an expensive proposition. It is highly unlikely that you can look to someone else for the injuries or damages you sustain. Your e-mail service provider or internet service provider will disclaim all liability for the damage and cost. Everyone who signs up for a new electronic service checks a box that says “I agree” before they ever receive the service. The agreement you just checked were to the “terms” of use, which nobody ever reads. The next time you sign up for any service, give those terms a look. You usually waive any liability for problems you encounter using the internet (which would include turning over your bank account information to the Nigerian prince so that he can transfer funds to your account), and often actually agree to monthly or annual fees you don’t realize you are paying until you see an odd vendor name on a credit card bill months in the future. However, it is no different than any other contract in that one should “read the fine print”. In the context of internet services, there is no high-pressure sales pitch, no time limit to join, and you have all the time in the world to read the terms of use before you click the “I agree” or “accept” box.

 In what may be the very first lawsuit filed over some internet-based entity’s “terms of service”, a class action case was recently filed against Instagram. You should keep in mind, however, that the claim is that they changed their terms of service unilaterally on people who had signed up under different terms. Many legal scholars think this case has very little chance for success, given that like a television, where if you don’t like what you’re watching you can turn it off, Instagram users could have simply deleted their accounts if unhappy with the new terms. Given the probable failure of a case related to altered terms of use, there is, at this point, little hope that you can collect monetary damages for injuries you may sustain as the result of internet scams and spam from a company whose terms you accept blindly and entirely. Therefore, as much as we would like the law to help us when we are victimized by a scam, there are substantial limits to what can be done. You’ll never really find the “prince” who robs you of your identity or funds, and the internet service provider you use doesn’t promise you protection from those scams.

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.  

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

YOU’VE BEEN SERVED…

You answer the door and a man hands you an official document and says “you’ve been served”. In your quivering hands are a summons and lawsuit papers. What do you do? This is not the kind of question you want to consider for the first time after the faYOU'VE BEEN SERVEDct. It is important to know how to conduct yourself prospectively in this situation to prevent any missteps. Do not panic or argue with the process server. He can’t (and likely won’t) help you. Accept service of the summons, but only if you are the correct individual the process server is attempting to serve. Do not accept service on anyone else’s behalf.

Avoid the temptation to immediately call your spouse, your best friend, or your boss. More importantly, strongly resist the additional temptation to simply vent to the nearest random individual. And perhaps most importantly, do NOT post anything about the summons served upon you, or the suit being brought against you, on any social networking website. Many people, especially those being sued for the first time, read the allegations in a lawsuit petition and are so personally offended or surprised by the allegations that they want to call the attorney bringing the suit to say “this isn’t true” or “it didn’t happen like that”. Keep silent and keep your fingers away from all keyboards, including that tiny one on your phone.

When you can no longer feel your heart pounding in your chest, read the summons and suit papers carefully. Make some notes for your attorney of what you believe are the most important points, especially as they relate to the allegations against you. These notes should be prepared for your attorney so that they remain privileged from discovery, and to help you and your attorney prepare your defense. If you already have an attorney, contact him promptly, since suit papers are time-sensitive and a formal responsive pleading must usually be filed within 30 days (sooner in some jurisdictions).

The issue or event over which you are being sued may not be fully known to you. In fact, it may be something for which you have insurance coverage. Do not presume that is not the case. Pull out your auto, homeowners, professional liability (if applicable) or other policies and contact the claims departments immediately to report the suit, because if you do have coverage for the allegations in the suit, timely reporting that to your carrier is also critical. If your carrier acknowledges that they do cover you for the allegations, they will likely assign a defense attorney to you, but you can also work with your own personal counsel at the same time. To help either your assigned or retained counsel, try to promptly locate any documents or records that you believe may be associated with the claim asserted and place them in a secure location. You are building a file to take with you to your attorney’s office.

Do not discuss the details of the suit or any of the allegations raised in the case with anyone besides your attorney. Your discussions with your attorney are protected by attorney-client privilege, but statements you make to anyone else are not. No matter how irrelevant or innocuous you believe your conversation with someone else may be, you should understand that the contents of any such conversations are discoverable. That means that you may later have to sit through a painful deposition listening to your casual words – flippant, confessing, insulting or otherwise — repeated on the record by the person with whom you spoke.

Those are the basic “rules of conduct” when you are served. Don’t panic, maintain silence, collect relevant documents, contact your insurance carrier, and call your attorney. Once the suit papers are in your hands, the outcome of the suit may be out of your hands – but you still play a vital role in assisting in your own defense.

 

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.  

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

IS THAT REALLY A POLICE CAR?

No matter where you are, the sight of flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror will make your heart race a bit faster. But what if you see those lights and the car is not marked in any way, or does not look like a typical police car?

IS THAT REALLY A POLICE CAR?

Many people, especially women, are taught not to stop if an unmarked car is trying to pull them over – at least not until you can do so in a well-populated or busy area. This suggestion is further advanced by a “story” currently making the rounds on Facebook and other social media sites about a woman being flagged over by a purportedly “unmarked” police car with flashing lights, who smartly dials “112” on her cell phone, putting her in touch with a police dispatcher who tells her that they have no cars in her area. She keeps driving and is finally saved when the real police show up and surround a would-be assailant pretending to be a police officer. While that particular story, and its common variations, may be just urban legend (especially the suggestion that dialing “112” will actually put you in touch with a dispatcher, which is not accurate), there are certainly stories of individuals who have attempted to impersonate police vehicles with light bars or other devices, and attacking people (especially women) who dutifully and automatically pull over at the sight of those lights. So the question remains, what should you do if that situation should arise? And what are the implications if you do NOT pull over and the vehicle is an actual police officer with a legitimate reason to stop you?

One consideration is that “failure to yield” to a police officer, or failure to obey the lawful direction of a police officer is generally a crime (or at the very least, a traffic offense) in most states, and can lead to fines and points or other impact upon one’s driver’s license. Would an actual police officer be understanding of an explanation about your fear of his unmarked vehicle? Will he give you a ticket even though you explain that you were taught by your parents not to pull over for an unmarked “police car”? When personal safety is at issue, and you can’t be completely sure of the motives or legitimacy of a car flashing what appear to be emergency vehicle lights at you, start by turning on your own emergency flashers, so that the “officer” knows you are aware of his presence and aren’t avoiding him. Try to pull over in a well-populated area if possible, or at least in a well-lighted area or a business parking lot. If you aren’t near a well-populated and well-lit spot, or otherwise still question the legitimacy of the vehicle, dial 911 on your cell phone and advise the dispatcher of your location, and that you are being pulled over by a car you cannot identify as an actual police car. At the very least, if it turns out to be an actual police officer decides to give you a ticket for “failure to yield” to him, you will have a timed and documented (911 recording) explanation of your rationale for not immediately doing so, which you or your attorney will likely be able to use to get such a charge thrown out.

Remember, while the odds are that those flashing lights in your rearview mirror is an actual police officer, if the vehicle does not look like a police car, don’t hesitate to think about your safety first.

 

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.  

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.